Only in Kit's Tree House
Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling are raking up the leaves in Kit's backyard when Kit looks up to the top of the tree. Kit comments one could really see what a tree was like when the leaves were gone, and Ruthie jokes one also got to know the leaves as she throws a pile of them at Kit and Grace. Kit points to the top of the tree and says dreamily it would be wonderful to have a tree house all the way at the top. Stirling agrees with Kit, but Ruthie points out the branches at the top were too weak to hold up a tree house and the fall would be too high. Ruthie says it would be smarter to build it on the lower branches and Kit agrees, though her gaze still went to the top of the tree.
Kit continues raking as she says she's determined to have the tree house of her dreams. Ruthie and Stirling smile, knowing Kit always wanted a tree house. Kit came close to having one a year ago, but she sacrificed the wood so her dad could turn the sleeping porch into a room to rent. Kit knew her family struggled to keep their own house and they couldn't afford a tree house, but Kit had not given up.
When they finish raking, Stirling suggests they make tree house plans and the girls agree. Kit thinks how much of a good friend Stirling was, a guy who drew excellent tree house plans and was nice about drawing many of them. Their tree house designs varied from a Tarzan tree house that would have a swinging vine, to a Robin Hood tree house that would have multiple levels. Today, Ruthie suggests a castle tree house and Kit loves the idea. Ruthie describes how it would look with flags and a drawbridge to Stirling when Kit's mother tells Kit its time to set the table. Kit tells her friends they would work on the plans again tomorrow and says the castle tree house was Kit's most favorite design so far.
Ruthie left for home and Stirling left for his newspaper job as Kit helped in the dining room. Grace followed Kit closely, tripping Kit's mother as she helped Kit. Mrs. Kittredge scolds Grace away and the dog complies. They hear Grace settling into mother's favorite armchair and Mrs. Kittredge sighs. She comments Grace could shed and drool on the chair as much as she wanted to as she had a plan to reupholster the furniture with her old curtain material. Mother looks at Kit and says her plan actually depended on Kit. She explains a friend of hers, Beatrice Pew, knew how to reupholster and was willing to help if Mrs. Kittredge would lend her curtain material. But she had three children, twins and a baby, and thus needs a babysitter for the week she would spend working on the Kittredge's furniture. She asks Kit if she could babysit and Kit agrees after a moment of hesitation. Kit knew the kids were terrors, but she couldn't say no to her mom. Mrs. Kittredge thanks Kit, saying she'll start tomorrow after school. Kit thinks to herself that it was a shame the castle tree house didn't exist. If it did, she could stick the Pew kids inside and close the drawbridge.
The next day, babysitting for the kids was worse than Kit expected. Mrs. Pew insisted for the house to be kept spotless, so the twins spilled things over on purpose and moved things around as Kit had to chase and clean up after them. The kids were also very loud and by the time Mrs. Yew returned, Kit was fed up with them. The next day on the way to school, Ruthie sympathizes with Kit, having spent time with them before. Kit admits she wasn't the babysitting type and says the only time the kids kept quiet was when she read. Kit says they liked stories about ogres and Ruthie says they must be taking hints. She asks Kit how much longer she had to babysit and Kit says a week. Kit says she couldn't wait for the furniture to be done and Ruthie agrees, saying they could make some more tree house plans.
The next couple of days, Kit didn't even have time to rake the leaves as she had to go to the Pew's house straight after school and as soon as she got home, she had to help with dinner. Kit's only reward for her work was seeing how delighted her mother was over the chairs. Kit notices the home improvement fever was spreading as Stirling and her dad worked on something inside the garage. Kit assumes they were building a new roof for the chicken coop, and she was happy for them. Her dad loved to build and Stirling's dad disappeared, so Kit thought it was nice they were friends.
One day, as Kit walked home from babysitting, she was happy she managed to find a way to make the Pew kids behave. She told them stories about ogres named after the kids and the more gruesome the story was, the better. Kit thinks how imagination could make anything better, even babysitting. When she reaches home, Kit was surprised to see her dad, Stirling, and Ruthie waiting for her on the driveway. Kit asks Ruthie what was going on and Ruthie says she doesn't know, Stirling just telling her to come over. Dad announced happily he and Stirling wanted to show Kit something and thought Ruthie would enjoy it as well. He tells the girls to cover their eyes and the girls, feeling cheerful from the boy's excitement, shrug to each other and put their hands over their eyes. The boys lead them to the backyard when dad says "You can look now. Tada! We built you a tree house!"
Kit opened her eyes and gasps, not believing her eyes. Her dad explains that since Kit was such a good sport about babysitting, he and Stirling made the tree house as a surprise. Stirling adds they built part of it in the garage, then finished it today on the tree. Kit's hear thudded and tears started to form in her eyes as she stood in frozen silence. Kit thought the tree house was terrible. It was too close to the ground, it was too small, it was clunky and awkward, and it had none of the imaginative features she talked about with her friends. While Mr. Kittredge and Stirling thought Kit was speechless due to happiness, Ruthie wasn't fooled.
They all climb into the tree house and Ruthie asks where they got the wood to cover for Kit's silence. Stirling explains how a boarded up store near his newspaper corner opened up recently and gave the extra wood to Stirling for free. Ruthie pokes Kit, and Kit manages to give a weak thanks and a wobbly hug to her dad. Her dad says "You're welcome, sweetie," sounding happy and satisfied. He says it's getting dark and they better go inside. Ruthie tells the boys to go ahead, trying to sound as if the tree house was so fantastic they couldn't leave.
When the boys leave, Ruthie says this wasn't the tree house Kit was expecting at all. Kit admits while some of her plans were unrealistic, this tree house looked awful and she couldn't think of a way to make it better. Kit asks what to do when she hates the tree house, but her dad and Stirling wanted Kit to love it. Ruthie says if they ask how she likes it, then Kit must lie.
Later in the night, Kit looks at her tree house from her window and thinks it looks terrible even in the moonlight. Kit sighed, wondering weather she should lie about her thoughts, or ask very politely for her dad to take it down and make it closer to what she wanted. Kit notices a flashing light in the tree house and curious about what it was, Kit goes outside. She finds Stirling inside the tree house with her lantern. Stirling tells Kit she didn't fool him and he knew she hated the tree house. He admits he knew from the beginning Kit wouldn't like it, but he quietly explains it was great working with Kit's dad and he didn't want to say anything.
He looks at Kit and asks if she would tell her dad the truth and Kit says she doesn't know. She says she didn't mind settling for things like an old, small coat and babysitting ogres, but she didn't want to give up her tree house. Stirling nods, understanding what she meant. A wind blows into the tree house and Kit hears the sound of rustling papers. She looks at the walls to see that Stirling had put up the drawings of their tree house designs. She asks him why he did that as the pictures would only remind Kit of her disappointment. Stirling says that Kit shouldn't give up her plans and dreams of a perfect tree house, and the pictures were a reminder of that.
Kit takes a deep, shaky breath as she looked around the tree house. Kit knew her dad would build Kit's dream tree house if he could, but all he had was time, scraps, and love. Stirling suggests they could hang a rope ladder out the back and Kit comments it would take more than that to improve the tree house. Kit says it was a terrible tree house and even imagination and ingenuity may not even save it, but she loved her dad and knew she was stuck with it. She adds she was only stuck with a terrible tree house for now, as she eyes the drawings on the wall and smiles.
The next day at noon, Kit invites her dad, Stirling, and Ruthie into the tree house, saying she had a surprise for them this time. Ruthie says "Wow!" with genuine enthusiasm as they all enter to see Kit had made curtains and set up a picnic inside. Kit says her mother was going to help her make pillows out of the old furniture fabric. Kit's father compliments Kit's ingenuity. He looked around the tree house and said happily to Kit "This is great, isn't it?" Ruthie and Stirling both looked hard at Kit. Kit grins and agrees with her dad with her whole heart.
Meet The Author
Looking Back: Houses in 1934
Discusses how people lived within their homes during the Great Depression. Topics covered:
- Children that learned to appreciate private places as their household expanded to included family members and friends.
- People who used their homes to keep boarders and earn money to help pay the mortgage, and the benefits of boarding with a family.
- Difficulties boarding houses had with accommodating their members, resulting in newer bedrooms being built in attics, basements and porches.
- The difficulty kids had sharing their homes, with some having to give up their rooms to paying guests or having to do more chores in bigger households.
- Alternate homes for those who were either evicted or couldn't afford a proper house, resulting in many to settle in makeshift places or Hoovervilles.
- Homeless families having to move from various place, such as soup kitchens and hobo jungles, in order to find a place to stay and find food.
- The gratitude children felt after seeing those who were homeless, learning not to complain about their cramped homes and using creativity to make their own rooms.
Activity: Make a Jewelry Tree
Learn how to make a jewelry tree.